Myrtle Beach City Council talks heroin epidemic, major projects during budget retreat

Myrtle Beach City Council talks heroin epidemic, major projects during budget retreat

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As the heroin epidemic continues to take lives, Myrtle Beach City Council members are looking at various ways they can fight back.

"We've got to do law enforcement. We've got to do prevention. We've got to do education," Councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said. "We've got to do recovery help. We've got to do mental health."

Heroin was one of several topics discussed at Wednesday's round table discussion during the second day of the budget retreat.

Jeffcoat wants to see a unified county attack the heroin epidemic with a specified leader.

"The county has skin in this game too because it knows no boundaries," she said. "Everybody is spending an awful lot of money and we're losing an awful lot of people."

The 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office has a heroin coalition, but she said this isn't a completely holistic approach to solving the problem.

"We're trying to police our way out of what's happening," Jeffcoat said.

City Manager John Pedersen agreed.

"That's not the ideal place," he said. "Although they have an education committee, they have a number of different committees. It's primarily still a law enforcement effort and I think it needs to be in a different location."

Councilman Wayne Gray said the responsibility can't only be on the police department.

"Once you're at enforcement, you're already passed the stage of education and intervention," he said.

Councilman Mike Lowder said education is key. He added the DARE program used to be successful for elementary school students, but it didn't include follow-up as students aged.

"If we could come up with a reinforcement program for the middle school and the high school, I think that would be resources well spent," he said.

Jeffcoat said national information states the average age of addictive behavior starts at 14, meaning the DARE program was "singularly unsuccessful" because it only targeted elementary school children.

"They didn't follow it up into middle school or high school," she said.

Pedersen is planning to talk to Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge about the heroin epidemic, while Mayor John Rhodes said he wants to put the topic on a Coastal Alliance meeting agenda.

At Wednesday's round table, council members also talked about the proposed children's museum and library in the Superblock. The city is still in the negotiation process with several properties.

According to Pedersen, the city is working to acquire a property for parking. He wouldn't specify which property that is.

Pedersen said the city is looking at funding the project itself in fiscal year 2020, although he's looking for options to accelerate that. One possibility the city manager discussed was having space for Jack Thompson's collection of photographs in the library.

Thompson rents one of the buildings that has yet to be sold to the city. Pedersen discussed a possible rent-free set up with an employee or kiosk selling his prints.

Pedersen said the hope is to get more people into the library because of Thompson's collection, meaning more eyes will see his photos.

Pedersen also gave an update on the performing arts center and amphitheater.

As for the the performing arts center and amphitheater, a committee has already selected its top pick for architect, but city council hasn't made a final decision on that.

The city is now getting ready to send out a request for proposal to management firms to get their comments on the design and also find out their interest in making a capital investment into the facility, Pedersen said.

City officials are looking at funding the project through bonds in fiscal year 2019.

Regarding beach renourishment, Pedersen said Myrtle Beach wasn't as heavily damaged from Hurricane Matthew as Surfside Beach and North Myrtle Beach, so the city isn't getting the emergency funding those two stretches of beach are.

The federal beach renourishment is coming up next year and Myrtle Beach is hoping to be part of that, but Pedersen said no funding has been identified as of yet.

Instead, the city could potentially have to look at funding the renourishment itself.

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